Former palliative carer Bronnie Ware tells Chris Evans: "It's only too late if you're on your deathbed"

Virgin Radio

12 Jul 2023, 15:07

Get the tissues ready, because former palliative carer Bronnie Ware had some hard-hitting advice for us all this morning.

Bronnie joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch, and shared the wisdom she has learned over her years in work.

She has written a book called The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying, and it is out now.

Bronnie explained how she found her way into working as a palliative carer: "I was looking for work that didn't involve high heels and corporate uniforms, so I took a job as a live-in carer and that patient actually ended up being terminally ill."

She explained: "That opened the door to eight years of looking after dying people. I kept seeing or hearing these repeated themes come up over the years, and I started paying attention because I thought I'm witnessing some pretty huge anguish and heartache here. I don't want to go down the same road."

"There turned out to be five main themes, they came from different angles and in different wording sometimes, but they were still five main themes" she says of the regrets many people expressed.

She recalled one particular patient, a "tiny little lady" called Grace who had stayed in an unhappy marriage and didn't have the chance to go travelling.

Once her husband went into a care home, she booked a ticket to do a bus tour of Australia but was then diagnosed with lung cancer. One day she was crying to Bronnie and told her the regret that changed everything: "She said to me, whatever you do Bronnie, promise this dying woman that you will always have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life that other people expect of you."

"It just hit home. I was trying to change direction and go against my family's expectations... witnessing the depth of that anguish, I needed to find the courage to do this for myself. There's no way I'm going to end up experiencing this anguish and heartache myself. This is a lesson here."

Bronnie said the wish to have lived a different, sometimes more authentic, life was the most common wish and regret.

She advised that change is possible: "People take on so many responsibilities and think it's too late to actually have a go and change direction in midlife, but it's it's only too late if you're on your deathbed."

"We either find the courage and make the changes more gently ourselves and do it as a step by step process, or life just says, I've been listening to that longing for decades now. I'm going to crack you open so that you actually have to stop and look at this."

Bronnie mentioned the importance of just trying, too: "If we at least just have the courage to take the first step, and have enough faith in ourselves or in life then the second or third step will reveal themselves when we're ready. At least we're taking those steps, so if we get hit by a bus, at least we know we honestly gave it a go."

Chris asked her what the main lessons she has learned from her time in care was, and Bronnie said it's about doing all that she can to not live with regrets: "I know if I've got a really difficult decision to make, and there's an easy path and a hard path, but the hard path has the potential to lead me where I really want to go. I'm going to ask myself, okay, if you take this path, are you going to regret it?"

For more great interviews listen to  The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with cinch weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.